Nationals sign Rafael Soriano to two-year, $28 million deal

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Well, this certainly came out of nowhere.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that free agent reliever Rafael Soriano has agreed to a two-year, $28 million contract with the Nationals, who lose their first-round draft pick in order to sign him.

Soriano was one of three remaining free agents with draft pick compensation attached. All three of them (Soriano, Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn) are represented by agent Scott Boras and there’s been all sorts of speculation that they’d struggle to secure multi-year deals, but Soriano at least has found a nice landing spot with a Nationals team that is flush with high-profile Boras clients.

Washington’s bullpen wasn’t exactly hurting, so it’ll be interesting to see how Soriano fits in with a group that already included Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard as the late-inning duo. According to Passan the two-year, $28 million deal also includes a $14 million option for 2015 that vests if Soriano has 120 games finished in 2013-2014, which would essentially require his being the Nationals’ full-time closer.

Soriano stepped in as the Yankees’ closer when Mariano Rivera injured his knee last season and saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA. He’s battled injuries over the years, but when healthy Soriano has consistently been one of the best relievers in baseball with a 2.78 career ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s posted an ERA of 3.00 or lower in six of the past seven seasons, but $14 million per year and a draft pick is an awfully big price tag for a reliever.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.